The last 5 years have brought dramatic changes to the care of patients with severe sepsis. While early diagnosis remains a challenge and, regrettably, a rapid, sensitive, and specific diagnostic test is still lacking, the methods to identify those critically ill patients who are likely to die have become clearer. The presence of multiple organ failure, vasopressor-dependent shock, and high values in formalized scoring methods such as the APACHE (acute physiology and chronic health evaluation) and sequential organ failure assessment systems all have some utility for outcome prediction for groups of patients. Refinements in long-used supportive practices such as lower tidal volume ventilation and enhanced glucose control have improved outcomes. A growing appreciation of the importance of timely provision of antimicrobial therapy, circulatory resuscitation, and activated protein C administration have also improved survival. Optimal treatment candidates for, and the timing and dose of some treatments (eg, corticosteroids) remain controversial and are undergoing additional study. Perhaps the most important change in the care of patients with severe sepsis is awareness that the syndrome is more common, lethal, and expensive, than previously appreciated, and as such it warrants an organized approach to care provided by experts. Although there is still much to learn, numerous studies now indicate that improvements in outcomes are possible when treatment protocols that incorporate all known beneficial therapies are applied in a timely fashion.